THE CHRISTIAN PASSOVER
“Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth [his] hands to vex certain of the church. (12:2) And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. (12:3) And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 12:4 And when he had apprehended him, he put [him] in prison, and delivered [him] to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Acts 12: 1-:4 KJV
The twelfth chapter of the book of Acts is an account of the persecution of the early church around 40 AD. King Herod Agrippa 1 sought to gain good will among his subjects, the Jews, by persecuting the Christians. Many Jewish leaders opposed the church, so Herod used his authority to persecute believers in an effort to destroy them. This Herod Agrippa was a successor to his uncle, who had murdered John the Baptist (Mark 6:17-27) and to his grand-father, Herod the Great, who murdered the infants at Bethlehem. Matt 2:13-18
The persecution began with the killing of the Apostle James. Seeing that helped him gain some favor with the Jews, Herod proceeded to take Peter also. Peter was seized and imprisoned but his execution was delayed merely because it was the week of Passover, and according to Jewish custom no one could be put to death during that week. The intention of Herod was that Peter should be killed in some manner immediately after the close of the Passover week. Here we pause to examine more closely the Scripture cited at the beginning of this letter and in particular the word EASTER which occurs only once in the King James Bible Acts 12:4. This is an obvious mistranslation that should be rendered “Passover”and is so translated in older manuscripts. Notice verse three tells of the days of unleavened bread which occured annually at Passover time. Exodus 12:14-18
The name Easter was adopted from the heathen. It is of Saxon origin, and recognizes a goddess of the Saxons, or rather of the East, Estera, whose festival was celebrated in the spring of the year. Interestingly, of all the Christian holy days currently celebrated as “holidays,” the only one with any real validity in the Scriptures, in terms of origin and time of year is what is commonly called Easter. However there is no scriptural validity in the forms usually practiced. The adoption of this name, and the application of it to the period celebrating our Lord’s death and resurrection, was evidently an attempt to let Christian institutions the more easily replace those of heathenism. Like most of these concessions, it dates from somewhere about the third century and not during the time of Christ. This heathen origin of the name Easter makes no difference to us as Bible Students, for we do not use it to celebrate the goddess of the East. Among most Christians however, Easter has been definitely attached to one day instead of to a period, as in old times. That one day is called Easter Sunday. The death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus are two of the most important events in history and the Christian world generally celebrates the resurrection as Easter Sunday. Our Lord particularily instructed the disciples and the early church to remember his death which actually occurred earlier, on the date of the Jewish Passover, when the Lamb was killed. The date is Nisan 14 which occurs during either March or April of our modern calendar. The difference in the months is due to the method of counting. The Jews wait until the Spring Equinox, begin their month with the first new moon there after, and keep the Passover at the full of that moon, or the 14th day. This change occasionally makes a difference of nearly a month between the two methods of counting.
Our Lord’s MemorialThe Christian Passover
The Apostle Paul ties this together for us when he writes in 1 Cor 10: 11; “Now all these things (1 Cor 10:1-10) happened unto them (Fleshly or Natural Israel) for ensamples: (types, examples, figures) and they are written for our (Antitype, the Church, Spiritual Israel) admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come”. In studying the Bible a type is a person, place, or event that is a sign or foreshadowing of a future person, place, or event The anti-type or the things that the type foreshadows or pictures is greater and clearer to understand.
It was in harmony with the type of the killing of the Passover lamb on the 14th day of the first month (Exod. 12:8)-the day preceding the seven days Feast of the Passover, celebrated to this day by the Jews, that our Lord died, as the antitypical Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29
As the Jews were commanded to select the lamb of sacrifice on the tenth day of the first month, and to receive it into their houses on that date, the Lord appropriately offered himself to them on that date, when, five days before the Passover, he rode into the city on the ass, the multitude crying, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. John 12:1,12,13 He came unto his own, and his own [as a nation] received him not, but as many as received him [individually] to them gave he “liberty to become sons of God. John 1:11,12
The nation of Israel, through its representatives and rulers, [The Scribes and Pharisees] instead of receiving him, rejected him, and thus identified themselves for the time with the Adversary. Nevertheless, by God’s grace the blood of the New Covenant will still have the desired effect for the house of Jacob [The Jews] and also upon all who desire harmony with God. The Jews were partakers of the merits of the literal [typical] Lamb—yet since they refused to eat of the antitypical Lamb [accept Jesus as Messiah] they lost the opportunity of becoming as a nation the first-born ones, the Royal Priesthood, the holy nation, the peculiar people of Messiah—they lost the opportunity of and becoming members of the New Creation, with life more abundant in glory, honor and immortality; but we are glad to be informed elsewhere in the Scripture that they will, nevertheless, have a glorious opportunity of accepting the Lamb of God, of eating, appropriating, his flesh, his sacrifice, and of thus escaping the bondage of sin and death, under the leadership of the Lord and of his faithful brethren, spiritual Israel, the antitypical Church of the First-born. Rom. 11:11-26
It was at the close of our Lord’s ministry, on the 14th day of the first month, Nisan, in “the “same night” in which he was betrayed and in the “same day” therefore in which he died, as the antitypical Lamb, that he celebrated with his disciples the typical Passover of the Jews, (Matt 26:26-28) eating, with his twelve apostles, the typical lamb which represented himself, his own sacrifice for the sins of the world, in the strength of which the life, liberties and the blessings of the sons of God are alone obtained. The eating of this supper on the night preceding our Lord’s death, and yet the same day, was made possible by the Jewish custom, which began each day, not at midnight, but at 6 o’clock in the evening.
As Jews “born under the Law,” it was obligatory upon our Lord and his apostles to celebrate this type, (Passover) at its proper time; and it was after they had thus observed the Jewish Supper, eating the lamb with unleavened bread and herbs, and probably also, as was customary, with “fruit of the vine,” that the Lord—taking part of the unleavened bread and of the fruit of the vine remaining over from the Jewish Supper, the type—instituted amongst his disciples and for his entire Church, whom they represented, a new thing, that with them, as the Spiritual Israel, the Church of the First-born, the New Creation, should take the place of, and supplant, the Jewish Passover Supper. Our Lord was about to begin its fulfilment, and hence, it would be no longer appropriate to those who accepted the fulfilment. Our Lord, the antitypical Lamb was about to be slain, as the Apostle Paul expresses it in 1Cor. 5:7,8 Christ our Passover [Lamb] is sacrificed for us therefore let us keep the feast.
None accepting Christ as the Passover Lamb, and thus accepting him as taking the place of the type, could any longer with propriety prepare an actual lamb and eat it in commemoration of the literal deliverance. The appropriate thing thenceforth for all believers in Jesus as the true Passover Lamb would be the sprinkling of the doorposts of the heart with his blood: “Having their hearts sprinkled from a consciousness of evil” [from present condemnation-realizing that through his blood they now have forgiveness of sins]. These henceforth must eat, or appropriate to themselves, the merits of their Redeemer—the merits of the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all. (1Tim 2:5,6) By faith they must partake of those merits, and realize that as their sins were laid upon the Lord, and he died for them, so his merits and righteousness are imputed to them.
If then, our Lord’s Supper took the place of the Passover Supper, (Exod 12:1-18), the antitype or reality having commenced, what was it? We answer that it was a “Memorial” of the antitype—a remembrancer for his followers of the beginning of the fulfilment of the antitypical Passover. Thus to accept our Lamb, and to commemorate his death for us, means expectancy regarding the promised deliverance of the people of God, and therefore signifies that those appreciating and memorializing intelligently while in the world shall not be of the world; but shall be as pilgrims and as strangers, who seek more desirable conditions, free from the blights and sorrows and bondage of the present time of the reign of Sin and Death. These partake of the true, the antitypical unleavened bread: they seek to have it in its purity, without the corruption (leaven) of human theory, blight, ambitions, selfishness, etc., that they may be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. They partake also of the bitter herbs of persecution, in accord with the Master’s word, that the servant is not above his Lord, and that if the Lord himself was reviled and persecuted and rejected, they must expect similar treatment, because the world knoweth them not, even as it knew him not. Yea, his testimony is that none will be acceptable to him whose faithfulness will not draw upon them the world’s disfavor. His words are, “Whosoever will live godly shall suffer persecution.” “They shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” (Matt. 5:11,12, 2 Tim. 3:12)
When our Lord instituted his Memorial Supper, often called the Last Supper, it was, a new symbol, built upon and related to the old Passover type, though not a part of it, being a commemoration, or memorial of the antitype. As we read, he “took bread, and when he had given thanks he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you [this represents me, the antitypical Lamb; it represents my flesh]. This do in remembrance of me. Our Lord’s evident intention was to fix in the minds of his followers the fact that he is the antitypical Lamb to the antitypical first-borns and household of faith. The expression, “This do in remembrance of me,” implies that this new institution should take the place with his followers of the former one, which must now become obsolete by reason of fulfilment. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament [covenant] in my blood—the blood of the covenant—the blood which seals the New Covenant. This do ye, as oft as ye drink it in remembrance of me. We would not understand this to imply the doing of it without respect to time and place, etc., but as signifying that when this cup and unleavened bread thenceforth were used as a celebration of the Passover, it should on these occasions be considered a celebration, not of the type but of the antitype. As it would not have been lawful, proper or typical to celebrate the Passover at any other time than that appointed of the Lord, likewise it is still not appropriate to celebrate the antitype at any other time than its anniversary. (1 Cor. 11:23-25) The Apostle further adds, “For as oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show forth the Lord’s death till he come.” 1 Cor. 11:26. This shows us that the disciples clearly understood that thenceforth to all of the Lord’s followers the annual Passover celebration must have a new meaning: the broken loaf representing the Lord’s flesh, the cup representing his blood. Although this new institution was not laid upon his followers as a law, and no penalties were attached for failure of its proper observance, nevertheless the Lord knew well that all trusting in and appreciating him as the antitypical Passover Lamb would be glad to take up the Memorial as he suggested to them. And so it is until this day.
THE CHRISTIAN PASSOVER
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